Today’s marketplace is bigger than your neighbourhood, than your town, than your country. As you likely already know, reaching customers who aren’t just across the city but on the other side of the world is only getting easier.
At Debitoor, we realise that our users might be looking a bit further when it comes to their business. Tools such as changing the invoice language and working with different currencies are already built-in. But what if you don’t yet have the customers to necessitate using those options? This article takes a look at some of the first steps to gaining customers abroad.
One of the key aspects of attracting international clientele is marketing. Online marketing, to be specific. This is not only due to the fact that it is far-reaching, but also because it can be incredibly cost-effective for small businesses that might not have massive amounts of capital to invest in growing a customer base in a foreign market.
However, before you get started, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Primarily: what if your business really takes off abroad? Ideal situation, we know, but will you be prepared to handle the volume of new business?
Be prepared for international customers
Making the move to target potential customers abroad takes time, effort, and money. Before you set your plan in action, consider what your business will need in order to be prepared for new customers. For example (and by all means, not an exhaustive list):
1. Invoices in the local currency and/or language
Conducting business with customers in other countries can involve language barriers and other hassles. Thankfully, as mentioned above, with the right invoicing software, you can customise the language of your invoice (all without knowing a word yourself).
In addition, you can choose to use the currency of the customer’s country. While this might not seem appealing, there are arguments for making a sale as clear and easy as possible for the customer, thereby encouraging future business and positive word of mouth.
From quotes to invoices and delivery notes, the language and currency can be customised easily with Debitoor.
2. Provide clear delivery dates
And guarantee them if possible. Delivering goods to customers abroad can quickly become complicated and pricey. This is something that will require some research ahead of time - are there shipping options that will work for your business? What are the associated costs?
In a world where Asos and Amazon can deliver orders the same day they’re placed, customers expect prompt, on-time delivery. Even if you’re not using expedited shipping, being able to provide a delivery date range is a clear path to happy customers. Adding in a delivery note provides a little extra polish.
While there can be issues that arise that are out of your control, how you handle these issues can also be an opportunity to show your professionalism.
3. Know your legal obligations
Now the fun stuff. Selling and shipping goods across borders involves more than just longer and more complicated shipping arrangements. Understanding what these sales mean to your business as far as tax, customs-duty, and if you’re based in the UK: the potential ramifications of Brexit, are crucial before you launch the international marketing outreach.
Speaking with your accountant or an import-export specialist might provide you with useful insights and help you prepare for intra-community transactions and/or international sales.
Attract international customers
Being prepared will set you up to better target, attract, and retain customers abroad. But the ease of reaching new customers online means that that is their first and main connection with your business.
4. Adapt your website
If you’re looking to a new target audience and have done your research, are there certain products that have a strong market abroad? Is it a particular culture you’re looking to appeal to? Which page draws the majority of your online visitors?
These are all elements of the online presence of your business that can be examined and updated accordingly with the goal of better attracting business abroad. From the images and description of your products to the navigation and ease with which customers can contact you - this should be researched and optimised for the international audience you’re trying to reach.
Developing a content strategy can be a first and ongoing step for appealing to foreign audiences. For example, if you have a blog and want to focus on marketing to customers in Australia, create Australia-specific content that can both provide value and potentially attract customers.
5. Invest in digital marketing
It was inevitable that we would get to the part that might involve parting with some of your money. Online adverts can be customised both to appeal to a certain audience, as well as appear to that audience. Depending on your industry and target audience, the cost for paid marketing can range from surprisingly affordable to astronomically expensive, so it will take some research to determine the right course of action.
However, updating your website and focusing on improving your SEO can help develop your organic traffic, though this is much harder to target certain markets without additional factors (such as a different language).
When it comes to your online presence, don’t forget about social media. It might still seem like a trend in marketing, but time has shown that social media can have a major impact on business success. You might also find a better niche market and more affordable advertising options.
6. Focus on customer service
As we’ve discussed above, the experience a customer has will have a major impact on whether they will be a return customer or recommend your business to friends/family/colleagues.
A good experience revolves around their interaction with you and your business throughout the sales process. Being available and ready to answer questions, concerns, disputes or other communications that might come up, offering clear and kind service, can make or break a sale and future business.
Unless you can be sure that you are only marketing to customers in one time zone, this might mean working outside normal business hours, so be ready to answer late night emails if you want to give your new international target audience high quality customer service.